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ND VOLLEYBALL:Irish delve into Big East schedule

Tom Dorwart | Friday, September 23, 2005

The quest to defend their title begins this weekend.

Sunday at 1 p.m. the Irish (7-1), the defending Big East tournament and regular-season champions, take on the Seton Hall Pirates (6-6) in Notre Dame’s first conference match of the season. Since the Pirates have played so many matches, Irish coach Debbie Brown has prepared her team well but doesn’t know exactly what to expect of her opponent.

“We were able to see a little bit of what their system is [through tape],” she said. “We were comparing them with their season stats. They might have been playing people in different positions because they have had lots of matches, so we don’t know for sure what we’re going to see.

“But we have a pretty good idea.”

Notre Dame, coming off a five-game loss to LSU, is hoping to bounce back with a solid match. It will be important for the Irish to take the Pirates out of their comfort zone. They won’t have played a match west of Pennsylvania yet this season, until tomorrow’s match in Chicago against DePaul.

Seton Hall has played some tough competition, though, including fourth-ranked Penn State (9-2). The Pirates gave the Nittany Lions a run in a few games but were swept three games to none.

Brown and the Irish are excited to get the conference season underway after a testing non-conference slate.

“I think it’s kind of like three different seasons – the non-conference, conference and hopefully the postseason,” Brown said. “We think we’ve prepared ourselves really well for the conference.”

While Notre Dame has defeated two top-10 teams and still ranks 11th in the polls, Brown is still a realist. When asked if she was pleased with the accomplishments thus far, she replied succinctly.

“Yes and no,” she said. “Obviously, we had some really, really good wins. We’re not pleased with our loss, not to say we don’t think we should ever lose, but we just felt we didn’t play very well last weekend.”

She thought the team prepared well this week in preparation for the conference season.

“I think this week … just get back in the gym, picking it back up, I think the team has responded well,” she said.

The team clearly has used the first loss of the season as motivation.

“Each day in practice it’s been a little bit better and a little more competitive,” Brown said.